Bush’s faith-based reality.

Author and former WSJ national affairs reporter Ron Suskind has an article titled Without A Doubt* in this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine that is a real eye-opener. It’s a long read that examines how President Bush views the world, his role as President, and what the future might bring should he win re-election.

Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ‘‘if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.’’ The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.

‘‘Just in the past few months,’’ Bartlett said, ‘‘I think a light has gone off for people who’ve spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he’s always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.’’ Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush’s governance, went on to say: ‘‘This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can’t be persuaded, that they’re extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he’s just like them. . . .

‘‘This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,’’ Bartlett went on to say. ‘‘He truly believes he’s on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.’’ Bartlett paused, then said, ‘‘But you can’t run the world on faith.’’

Near the end of the article it talks a little about Bush’s plans for his second term (should he get one) that he revealed during a luncheon with the R.N.C. Regents in Washington:

‘‘I’m going to come out strong after my swearing in,’’ Bush said, ‘‘with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security.’’ The victories he expects in November, he said, will give us ‘‘two years, at least, until the next midterm. We have to move quickly, because after that I’ll be quacking like a duck.’‘

Joseph Gildenhorn, a top contributor who attended the luncheon and has been invited to visit Bush at his ranch, said later: ‘‘I’ve never seen the president so ebullient. He was so confident. He feels so strongly he will win.’’ Yet one part of Bush’s 60-odd-minute free-form riff gave Gildenhorn—a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a former ambassador to Switzerland—a moment’s pause. The president, listing priorities for his second term, placed near the top of his agenda the expansion of federal support for faith-based institutions. The president talked at length about giving the initiative the full measure of his devotion and said that questions about separation of church and state were not an issue.

The article puts forth a pretty good argument that Bush sees himself as beyond questioning once he’s made a decision and this is the one quality about him that worries me the most. People are most dangerous when they believe they can do no wrong. One thing I don’t doubt is that Bush will scurry to make the most of his second term as quickly as possible should it come to pass. He’s already done some pretty stunning things by Presidential order to get around a divided Congress and this will probably only get worse in a second term. The damage he could end up causing might take decades to fix.

Link via Boing Boing.

8 thoughts on “Bush’s faith-based reality.

  1. I just finished reading this myself this morning, and yes, it is truly frightening.

    I see it more as a man who has been used to faking it all his life (and having people cover up for his failures), and who is now in way over his head. He’s still trying to fake it and is insecure about it, hence the pretense at certainty.  He’s going to bludgeon his way through this office to keep everyone off his back, and we’re already much worse off as a country for it.

  2. White House source confirms that the enlightenment is passe – something we already suspected. This quote dates to 2002 when Suskind was interviewing an aide.

    The aide said that guys like me were ‘‘in what we call the reality-based community,’’ which he defined as people who ‘‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’’ he continued. ‘‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’‘

  3. I agree with Geekmom…I dont think Bush really has the capacity to believe in something that fanatically.  (Of course, you could also say that he is fanatical because he has so little reasoning power, but I digress.) But I bet the good ol’ boys that help him along do, and they believe.  I think there’s also a certain measure of using others’ faith as a shield for ulterior motives.  And they can get a lot of votes while they’re at it, kill 2 birds with one stone.

    The thing that really scares me is the enlightenment quote…I read that in Wired yesterday, too.  I agree that the enlightenment has its issues, but, um, the Empire ain’t the answer.  I mean, hello Fascism.
    “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
    Does this line sound familiar to anyone else?

  4. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

    William Gibson had an interesting post on Mon 18…I can’t link directly to it.
    Gibson blog

    Google just turned up several blogs quoting the same line…oh well.

  5. So, I don’t quite understand…you don’t think Bush really believes what he’s saying…so, why’s he saying it?  Isn’t he just echoing Sartre & Derrida in much simpler terms?  There is no truth so we create our own realities.  He’s chosen one that’s shared by many, & in a position to change it alot.

    As much as I hear everyone say that our country is worse off…I don’t quite understand what that judgement is based on…a few personal specifics, please?  I mean, I understand we started off on a recession & Sept. 11 killed quite a few jobs…but the healthcare industry has been greatly hurt by the price caps of the Clinton era, & we are only now learning the sub-standard service of socialized European medicine. Yet I digress, I’d rather hear from you all, & I’m honestly curious.

  6. Actually, it’s the idea that he does believe what he’s saying that scares the shit out of me.

    We don’t have socialized European medicine in America—not yet at least—so I have no idea where your statement alleging we’re just now learning how it’s sub-standard comes from.

    As for how we’re worse off, there are a myriad of ways. Bush has eroded our relationship with our traditional allies, his administration is doing a slow hack job on our civil liberties, he’s taken us into a war under false pretenses without providing an adequate force to do the job properly and is in danger of having it turn into another Vietnam before too long, he’s managed to wipe out the budget surplus he was handed when he took office and has proceeded to run up a record breaking deficit the likes of which have never been seen before, Bush is all set to be the first President since Herbert Hoover to preside over an economy that lost jobs during his four-year term,  he managed to take all of the good-will that other countries expressed for America after 9/11 and flush it down the toilet within a year’s time, the economy continues to struggle, the death toll in Iraq continues to mount, and Osama continues to run free. Other than all of that he’s not been too terrible of a President I suppose.

    OK, he has even at that.

  7. From FDR’s alliance with “Uncle Joe” Stalin to removing 380 tons of their own weapons so we wouldn’t find that Russian sold them to Saddam in exchange for oil under food-for-oil, to current Russian tactics on the war on terror (revoking democratic freedoms) I don’t care too much for our “traditional” allies

    If you’re referring to Germany & France, I didn’t think much of them while I lived there either…when you encounter homeless people in the US, they’re usually men that are either damaged Vietnam vets, or addicts, or both.  There it’s women & children.  (On a personal note the customer lack of service is insane. They take NO pride in work, but in pontificating about how poorly Americans speak their language while consuming American pop culture.

    Yet I digress.  Those countries are so anti-Semitic it really shocked my American “tolerance”-oriented sensibilities.  There the difference between right & left wing is that the left wing wants to kill the Jews themselves, & the right will pay someone else to do it.  That’s not a joke.  The corruption of French & Russian businesses under food-for-oil makes Enron execs look like the Red Cross on a humanitarian mission.  I’d take recovering communists as new allies over “traditional” allies “coerced & bribed” by Saddam anyday.

    I don’t think there was any false pretenses. As I understood it, I never gave a fuck about WMD’s.  It always bothered me that some people needed a reason to depose that fucker.  Saddam was a shithead that we could get to & intimidate his worse neighbor, Saudi Arabia, because it wouldn’t be smart to go there now while we’re still dealing with North Korea.  In all of that I think no further attacks is more than enough to satisfy me that even if alive, Osama is neutralized, (note: it’s more than enough for me that we’ve avoided an attack on election day) & our efforts must be prioritized unless we want either a draft or to be bombed by North Korea.  What are you bloodthirsty or something?

    Vietnam is what happens when Democrats are in charge of foreign policy & make the fight about personal ego (note: Clinton in Bosnia) rather than freeing the oppressed.  (Note: in ‘01 Kerry voted AGAINST humanitarian aid for Vietnam).  9/11 is a *little* more compelling than the Gulf of Tonkin.  Plus any moron off the street could tell you that you’ll lose a war fought with drafted soldiers.  After 1 year of Vietnam we’d lost many more soldiers & didn’t have control of the country as we do in Iraq today.  Paradigm shifts don’t happen without sacrifice in a microwave.  Look how much time & $ was poured into Europe to create our “traditional” allies.  On a final note, our soldiers may be dying & injured in Iraq, but I haven’t been able to find an acceptable measure of whether “the death toll is mounting” or not because I can’t see how to measure against Saddam’s mass graves, starvations, plus many of the terrorists we’re killing traveled there to fight us.

    FDR lost jobs too, he just had enough following terms to make it up.  Yeah, his spending is a little more than I’d like, but it mostly went to schools.  I guess he has the trickle-up view: educate them, & they will eventually get better jobs.  More & more mexicans & blacks are starting to agree with him.

    Either way, my taxes are lower, & Grey Davis is the fucker who screwed my state.  I think it’s so easy to use a million different measures to say what you want about the economy, but I don’t think that’s the presidents realm anyway.  It never was before the progressive era.  Executive branch is for foreign policy, legislative is for domestic economy.  I’m willing to give some leeway in wartime.  Life or death matters more than the 2 times I lost my job. (Due to circumstances completely unrelated to executive policy.)

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